Tips On Choosing Fruit Trees
are hundreds of different fruits to choose from, and we offer most of our trees
on a choice of rootstocks. Given
all of this variety, how do you choose? Some
people prefer to just jump right in and choose what strikes their fancy, and for
folks with some gardening experience this works just fine.
Others prefer a more methodical approach.
Start by doing your research locally – have a look around and see what’s
already growing in your area. Talk
to your neighbors & county agricultural extension to find out what does well
in your area. Pay attention to your
site, the patterns of sun, wind & frosts.
Look for the microclimates, cold spots, hot spots and sheltered areas.
out what condition has the most limiting effect on fruit growing in your area,
and keep this in mind when choosing. In
northern regions it may be extreme winter cold, while some southern areas do not
get enough chill for certain fruits such as cherries & filberts.
In some areas Spring frosts may damage blossoms and reduce fruit set
certain years. Once you’ve
determined your limiting factor(s) you can make choices accordingly.
Choose hardy varieties for extreme cold, low chill varieties for southern
climates, disease resistant varieties for cool, damp climates etc.
Make the most of your site and climate.
Extended rain & fog in coastal areas contribute to disease problems
in tree fruit, but is ideal for berries. Choose
plums and early to mid-season disease resistant apples for coastal areas, avoid
the late season fruit that may not get enough time to ripen.
rootstock is the lower portion of the tree that you don’t see.
Rootstock selection and pruning determine the size of a tree.
If you have limited space, choose a dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstock and
keep it well pruned. If you want a
tree to hang a hammock on, or to use as windbreak or shade, go for a
semi-standard or standard. The
diagram below shows the relative sizes of different rootstocks.
Pumiselect (prunus) OHxF 97
Citation (prunus) Colt
are two aspects to consider for climate – what is the general climate of
your area, and what are the specific characteristics of your piece of
property. Climate zones
describe the macroclimate or general characteristics of your area.
By learning your climate zone you can gain a lot of useful information
such as average minimum temperature, weather patterns and number of growing
days. The specific characteristics
of your property are your microclimates , which you can familiarize
yourself with through observation. Microclimates are determined by soil, slope, aspect, wind and water.
If you have a small backyard plot you may not have many microclimates,
but if you have a parcel with some slope and differing vegetation you’re
likely to have several. Once you
identify your microclimates you can use them to your advantage when planting
Wherever possible, we
classify varieties using two climate zone systems– the USDA climate zones
& the Sunset Gardening climate zones. Most gardeners are familiar with the USDA zones, they account only for
the minimum average annual temperature so they are used to rate a plant’s
cold-hardiness (see adjacent Chart). However, there is more to growing conditions than minimum
annual temperatures. Sunset
Gardening has developed a different system of climate zones that is far more
informative, taking into account factors such as frost-free days, humidity,
prevailing winds, effects of ocean, elevation & regional weather patterns. Until relatively recently Sunset zones were available only for
the western US. Now the entire country has been classified using this
system, and we highly recommend utilizing it.
What Sunset Zone Am I In? -
- You can identify your Sunset zone www.sunset.com/sunset/garden/article/1,20633,845218,00.html.
You can also consult the climate
zone maps in the Sunset Gardening Book for your region.
the following chart to determine your USDA climate zone:
Annual Minimum Temperature
to -40° F
to -30° F
to –20° F
to -10° F
to 0° F
to 10° F
to 20° F
to 30° F
to 40° F
can find out your annual minimum average temperature by consulting a
knowledgeable neighbor, your county agricultural extension, or the USDA climate
zone map at http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html
be afraid to experiment
– Keep in mind that a climate zone is the map, and your site the actual
territory. Most written advice
(this catalogue included) will be conservative by necessity.
Climate zones do not account for your slope, aspect & local weather,
warm spots and frost pockets. These
all add up to your local microclimate, which may vary from what a climate zone
tells you. Use the climate zone as
a guideline, not an absolute. Use
the information in this catalogue to make educated choices and avoid varieties
that are obviously not suited to your climate.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and try something new.
Ultimately the only way to know how a fruit will produce on a specific
site is to plant it there.
- Making the Most of Your Location
are small pockets of climate variations that differ from the surrounding
climate. By identifying and
using microclimates you can grow fruit not normally recommended for your climate
zone. Pay attention to the way the
sun travels across your property throughout the season.
Look for cold spots and hot spots. A
maximum-minimum thermometer placed at different locations will tell you a lot
about your microclimates. Here
are a few other things to look for.
– Bear in mind that cold air moves like water, so in spring and fall a valley
floor will usually be significantly colder than a slope.
In fact, some slopes are called banana belts, because they remain
frost-free much longer than valley floors, which may be subjected to hard
frosts. If you are in a warm
climate and are concerned about not having enough chill, plant in low spots when
possible. If you are in a cold
climate and are concerned about frost damage, make the best use of slopes when
- A south-facing slope is, of course, much warmer than a north-facing slope.
Western slopes receive the hotter, more intense afternoon sunshine, while
eastern slopes receive the less intense morning sun.
A south facing wall is a good place to plant a tree that needs extra heat
in order to ripen. If the wall has
an overhang, it will also provide some frost protection.
Water and stone will absorb heat during the day and re-radiate it at night.
A stone or brick wall can be an ideal place for ripening a late fruit
crop. Translucent jugs of water
placed in a greenhouse or around fruit trees will re-radiate heat at night.
A small pond will serve as a heat sink in the summer and fall, and a cold
sink in spring and winter. Watering
before an anticipated frost will increase re-radiated heat – the wet soil will
absorb more heat than dry soil during the day, and release more at night.
– Strong wind can desiccate plants, damage fruit and decrease air
temperatures. Wind protection can
be especially important in coastal or desert regions.
The best windbreak is one that slows wind down rather than stopping it.
Hedges, vines, lattice fences and screens allow some wind to pass through
without creating turbulence.
fruit trees require pollination to produce fruit.
Some trees are capable of pollinating themselves (self-fertile), others
require pollen from another tree (self-sterile).
As a rule of thumb, pollenizers should be no more than 50 feet apart from
one another. The chart below
outlines the general requirements for
the fruits available from Sandy Bar Nursery.
See the variety descriptions for more specific information.
note on apple & pear pollination: Some
reference sources list certain apple varieties as self-fertile or partially
self-fertile. The research we have
done indicates that weather conditions during bloom plays a large factor.
For instance, Bartlett pear can be self fertile if warm
temperatures prevail during bloom (a common occurrence in Central California
where pears are grown commercially). We
have opted to be more conservative and list both apples and pears as requiring a
pollenizer for two reasons – 1) We
are give advice to people across a wide range of climatic conditions and
2) It’s frustrating to plant a tree and wait a few years only to find
that you are not getting any fruit due to lack of a pollenizer.
However, in the descriptions we do note when a variety is considered by
some as self-fertile by using the following phrase:
self-fertile, but produces better with a pollinator.”
This way you can decide for yourself whether or not to plant a pollinizer
for these varieties.
Pollination Charts for Sandy Bar Nursery Varieties:
fruit trees must pass through some cold in order to know that winter is over and
it is time to bloom. Chill is
the number of hours below 45°F from November to mid February.
Temperate fruits require anywhere from 100 to 1400 chilling hours.
Gauging cumulative chill and matching varieties for your area is more of an
educated guess than an exact science, as low temperatures vary considerably
within a climate zone and from year to year.
(We once had the experience of informing customers that, according to the
climate zone maps, they did not have enough chill hours for cherries.
They called us back after an old timer showed them a planting of trees in
their area that bore beautiful cherries. Local
knowledge trumps interpretive data). Chilling
requirement is a concern for USDA zones 9B and 10, predominantly southern and
coastal regions where chilling hours average 100-600 chilling hours per year.
If you are within this area, take note of the chilling requirements
listed for fruits and choose accordingly.
Most of Northern California receives between 800 – 1500 chilling hours
a year, which is sufficient for most fruits.
Persimmons, almonds, olives, berries, pomegranates & chestnuts all
have low chilling requirements. Low
chill varieties are available for apples, pears, apricots, nectarines, peaches,
and plums. Filberts need lots of
chill (800 hours) and should be avoided in low chill areas. Use the map to see if you are in a low chill area and
estimate your amount of winter chill. The
“At a Glance” tables will tell you the chilling requirements of each fruit.
Click on the graphic for a larger image
For more details about chilling and to help make sense of just
how many days of low temperatures you may need for a given number of chill
hours, see the UCDavis California
Backyard Orchard website.
How Many Trees Should I Plant?
number of trees you plant will depend, of course, on how much fruit your family
consumes. The “At a Glance”
tables in the catalogue and on the website tell you how much fruit you can
expect to harvest from each variety on different rootstocks. Don’t be intimidated by the quantities. You can spread your harvest throughout the season so that
your fruit does not ripen all at once (see below). Some of the fruit will be
culls and a lot of weight is lost when processing fruits. If you intend to preserve your fruit by juicing,
canning or drying then you will want to plan accordingly.
Consider the following processing conversions:
20 LB of fresh fruit yields approximately:
Times – Spread Your Harvest Through the Year
choosing varieties that ripen over a long period of time you can enjoy fresh
fruit for most of the year, especially here in the west.
Some varieties are good keepers and will provide you with fresh fruit
well into the winter. And don’t forget canning, drying and freezing.
Most of the varieties in this catalogue are presented in order of
ripening, from early to late. Use this order and the chart below to plan for fresh fruit
throughout the year.